I’m talking about the challenges of writing female characters…

…over at the Magical Musings blog.


I go on for a while about how I feel gender roles/perceptions influence characters, etc. And I really love to hear myself talk. You can also win a copy of the Zero Dog War for leaving a comment.


I’m also over at the Book Nerds Across America blog talking about Ten Somewhat Unknown Things About Me In Random Order. I talk about aliens. And falling down a mountain. Good times.


You can also win a copy of Zero Dog War for leaving a comment. I can’t give these away fast enough!!! (no, really, I can’t. Check out how many people are interested in winning and left a comment. Like…3. So your odds are great. Just sayin.)

These two giveaways are the last for the forseeable future. Don’t make me resort to the Sad Puppy Dog Eyes.

Because I will, my friend. I will.


A Cult Uncovered on Twitter!

My friends, disturbing news.

A cult has developed on Twitter dedicated to the destruction of yours truly and the perpetuation of unbridled grrl power and/or world domination.

True story.

It seems that this “Cult of the Avocado” (as they so blithely call themselves) consists of authors Alisha Rai and the Bree half of Moira Rogers. They are actively attempting to recruit people for their nefarious plans. In order to avoid aiding and abetting them, I will not mention that they can be followed on Twitter at @alisharai and @moirarogersbree.

On a related note, I shall reveal Alisha Rai’s secret to the world. Yes, the one she was taunting everyone about on Twitter.

Here it is: Alisha Rai has given up writing hot erotic romances and decided to become a Shaolin monk. I know. I never would’ve seen it coming. Apparently, she’s been practicing by ramming her face into doors to toughen up. At one point, I think she broke her foot, or toe, kicking some guy in the face. Which, by the way, is pretty damn awesome.

So now the world knows her most secret of secret secrets. Honestly, I don’t feel the least bit guilty about giving it away in light of developments with the Cult of the Avacado. Alisha Rai’s fans will just have to wait for her to write her new erotic Shaolin-style novels. No whining! Suck it up, people!

That is all.

The Grinch Is A Christmas Ninja

I’m aware that Christmas has come and gone, and the last thing people want is to be reminded of the holiday war zone and all the post-traumatic stress associated with it. However, I was frantically trying to finish the sequel to Blood Vice in December, and blogging is seductively easy to put off. That said, I certainly am not patient enough to wait until next Christmas to post this, so I’ll just tack it on a week after 2009 ends. Yep, I just checked the needle on the World’s Care Meter. That bastard did not even twitch.

The Grinch is a Christmas Ninja. I’m talking about the Dr. Seuss version—the cartoon specifically—and not that horrid abomination of a remake that should’ve been staked through the heart and left out for the rats to ravage and the sun to rot.

Here’s the play by play on why the Grinch is a Glorious Evil Green Ninja.

Our movie opens with snow, appropriately setting the scene for some good old-fashioned Christmas crime spree shenanigans. The possibilities are wide open. Perhaps we’ll see something ala Reservoir Dogs, a Grinch caper gone awry and all we have left are the flaming pieces of a once beautiful plan. Perhaps we’ll see a heist scene similar to Ocean’s Eleven, or a hijacking straight from The Usual Suspects. Or…we could have saccharine voices singing in some kind of foreign language, which is practically the Next Best Thing.

The camera pans to a bunch of strangely shaped creatures engaged in full on pagan worship of an evergreen tree. As much as we might love them for this against-the-mainstream celebration of some kind of pseudo-Wicca, we are constantly reminded that THEY are the creatures singing that appalling song. Right away the brilliant script has given the audience its first major conflict. Do we love the tree worshipers for their sense of community and connection to nature? Or do we cheer the Grinch in his quest steal all their swag when they’re asleep, and do so because they’ve inflicted a version of aural warfare upon our innocent ears?

I say make ’em pay, but hey, that’s just me. My yearbook never said I was very nice.

Next up. The creatures, commonly known as Whos (short for: Who’s singing that atrocious song? yuk, yuk…Fine, I’ll stop), cut the tree down, and the audience watches in horror as our venerable symbol of eternal life and replenishment following winter frost is summarily executed. Damn you, Whos. Damn you.

The Whos drag the poor tree back to their Lair, and it is here we see the disturbing variation in Who stature. Some of those Whos are roughly six inches tall, making one wonder about Who mating rituals (those of you curious about Who prOn, it may be found here at: www.DontClickThisLinkEverOrEvenEyeSurgeryWontPurgeImages.cm)

and speculate on accidental Who crushing deaths.

That goddamn song…still playing.

The Whos decorate the murdered tree with random garbage. No wonder the Grinch hates these creatures. Song switches tempo. The Whos run amok with all kinds of alien weaponry. They string their entire town with tripwires and explosives. Yes, they fear the Grinch—as they should. However, we will soon see all their preparations will not stop a ninja.

More decorating ensues, violating every workplace safety rule on the planet. We also catch a glimpse of EVIL BABY WHO, the Capo di tutti capi (Boss of Bosses) for Whotown. Don’t worry. We’ll see her again later when the Grinch fights her with his poison katana, which, if I remember correctly, is the best part of the movie.

The Whos put Iron bars on their windows to keep out their enemies…probably Punk Yeti gangs on snowmobiles.

All right, now things get awesome because we finally meet the hero of our story. Long panning shot up the snow-swept, jagged peaks of The Mountain North of Whoville to focus on the pissed off mug of the Grinch. Of course he’s pissed. HE HAS TO LISTEN TO THAT SINGING! And it’s enough to provoke justifiable homicide. The Whos like Christmas. ALL of them like Christmas, meaning they have some kind of creepy hive mind–which I’d say was pretty damn Communist of them, except for the fact they so clearly revel in Christmas Capitalism. The Grinch is independent and a free thinker. Our Grinch says “Sit on this and rotate, Christmas! To Hell with your Crass Commercialism and Toy-of-the-Minute Frenzy.”

The Grinch eats a toothpick. Just because he’s a bad ass like that.

The narrator advances the hypothesis that the Grinch is a Bad Ass because he wears ill-fitting shoes. I expect to cut to commercial so the audience can be tempted with Adidas, Nike, and Reebok ads, but for some reason the studio missed this Golden Advertising Opportunity. Moving on. Apparently the Grinch is possessed by the same demon(s) who possessed the girl from the Exorcist, since he can rotate his head 360 degrees. Which is awesome.

However, the narrator then advances his favorite personal opinion—The Grinch’s heart is two sizes too small, leading to rampant circulatory problems. Since the Grinch doesn’t have health care, you can imagine he’s one mean rattlesnake due to an under-developed blood-pumping muscle.

The Grinch hates the Whos. Which is why we all love him and why he’s the hero of this sordid tale. We also learn the Grinch procrastinates until the day before Christmas to launch his attack, so in that way he’s exactly like me with Christmas shopping. Oh, Grinchy Grinch. Have my babies already, will ya?

About this time we meet his dog Max. A stand up guy—or stand up dog, if you prefer. Max used to do truck hijackings and armored car heists in New York before becoming a member of the Grinch’s crew. Sometimes he might seem a little timid, perhaps, but you’ll never find a better Get Away driver. He’s also been known to gore people with his horn just for looking at him wrong. So beware. It’s always the quiet ones.

Next scene: We learn precisely why All Whos Must Die!

First we see hordes of Who girls and boys looting Rome. Damn barbarians. Apparently they also violate every Noise Ordinance on the books while they’re at it. Do you hate them yet? Wait, there’s more. We’re treated to a list of some of their musical instruments. Apparently they allow children in motorized high chairs to play bass drums. As any parent who has given a young child a drum knows, these Whos MUST BE STOPPED!

The favorite sport of Whos is apparently a roller-skate type of lacrosse and croquet, which, I grudgingly admit, actually sounds pretty cool.

Who houses are roughly the dimensions of a football stadium, since they tear around on their strange mobile musical instruments and never run into things like, oh, you know, WALLS.

The Whos are carnivorous. They slaughter poor defenseless Roast Beast grown in tiny pens for the Corporate Meat Industry. Obviously, when we were young and innocent at the start of this movie and believed the Whos were tree-huggers we were horribly misguided and completely wrong. Nicely played, Dr. Seuss. You have masterfully manipulated our preconceived notions of the Whos, and I applaud you.

Who Pudding closely resembles a monstrous tower of Jell-O with strange antennae sticking out on all sides. If I had a flamethrower, I’d charbroil that Who-Pudding until it stopped moving forever, leaving nothing but a smoking gelatin stain on the plate.

But then again, I don’t like gelatin desserts.

The Whos use highly inefficient waiters. They also walk on their tables. Is there no end to their uncouth barbarianism? And the French thought the Americans were bad…

Evil Baby Who is shown contemplating eating a human heart presented on a plate. Probably belonging to an ex-baby sitter who let her stay in a dirty diaper for an hour too long. That can leave a rash, you know.

More Who singing, and bells now. As Edgar Allen Poe said:

Oh, the bells, bells, bells!

What a tale their terror tells

Of Despair!

How they clang, and clash, and roar!

What a horror they outpour

You said it, Eddie. Those Whos know how to pour out the horror, damn them all to the ninth circle of Hell.

Also, Evil Baby Who apparently has no feet. She seems to be some kind of Lovecraftian worm. Cute, but secretly depraved.

Next shot: Max after a bong hit.


The Grinch is driven to action by the flagrant excesses and horrors of the Whos. For 53 years he’s endured their unfiltered malevolence and high-pitched cavorting. He nurtures his War Plan. Which gives way to the most singularly awesome Grinch face in the entire movie:

The Grinch also has red curtains—curtains which he’s forced to destroy in order to construct his Santa infiltration suit. This is a particularly poignant tragedy because it’s hard to come by pleasant décor in a cave atop a mountain, especially with the Whos controlling all trade, choking off the Grinch’s supply train. A green ninja can only take so much before he must wet the katana with blood and lick it clean with a pointy tongue.

And next we have one of the singularly most awesome things about this movie: the song You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch. I’ve loved that song since I was a snot-nosed kid. It is full of eloquent imagery and lauds the finer aspects of the Grinch’s personality. Any character should feel honored to have so moving a theme song. Among other things, the Grinch is “cuddly as a cactus,” “charming as an eel,” a “bad banana with a greasy black peel,” has a heart described as “an empty hole.” And then, my friends, comes the most excruciatingly awesome line ever. “Your brain is full of spiders.” That line cannot be topped. How I lust after it—how I wish I had written it.

Rock on with your crazy bad self, Grinch.

However, we also learn the Grinch bears symptoms of leprosy and shouldn’t be touched with a 39 and a ½-foot pole. Anything 40 ft and up, though, you’re golden.

The Grinch makes his costume, because like all professional ninjas he can sew either flesh or fabric with a needle and thread. However, the Grinch also owns a sewing machine, and proceeds to sew his dog into the hem by mistake, but hey, we’ll blame industrial accidents on the Whos because we hate them so.

The Grinch converts his dog into a reindeer-unicorn-canine hybrid, takes out his laundry, and gets ready to go. At this point I would’ve suggested he just rain down artillery shells on Whoville, since the Grinch has superior field position and controls the high ground–or at least start an avalanche to purge the earth of the Whos–but alas, the Grinch is such a ninja he prefers to do his wet work close up, hands-on. Right after stealing back the slain evergreen tree and replanting it in a pristine Oregon forest where it will be surrounded by gently hooting Spotted Owls and peace and love and tranquility he will then turn his spidery thoughts to vengeance for all trees everywhere.

Or something like that.

Let me take a time out for an aside. Boris Karloff does the voice of the Grinch and Boris Karloff is the man. Enough said.

Back to our Crime of the Century. BDSM Grinch does a little whipping action on his unicorn-canine-reindeer and they descend toward Whoville exactly like the Charge of the Light Brigade except with fewer cannons and more comedic hijinks. Apparently it is possible to sled down a sheer cliff face. So kids, definitely try that at home. Just tell Mom and Dad you saw it on a Christmas Special.

Editor’s Note: Do not follow any advice dispensed on this blog. Doing so may result in permanent injury to person or property or cats.

The Whos don’t believe in gates, preferring to use landmines to keep out traveling salesmen, but the snow is too thick to set the mines off, so the Grinch rolls straight on in to the center of town. All the Whos are in bed, dreaming of the next day’s debaucheries, so the Grinch finally shows his ninjutsu skills, putting on his shinobi face and practicing the way of stealth. We are treated to a genuinely creepy shot of the Grinch’s hardcore assassin eyes staring out of the black depths of the fireplace and the audience either begins to fear for the lives of the Whos, or chortles with glee that the Hammer of Green Vengeance had begun to fall.

The Grinch is also capable of the awesome verb known as “grinched,” which apparently refers to pulling nails out of a mantle with a magnet and jacking a bunch of socks. I’m going to include the word “grinched” in my next manuscript and see whether my editor lets me get away with it. Grinched does sound like it might be a synonym for murder. Clipped, creased, whacked, “grinched.” Good stuff.

The Grinch knows serpentjutsu—the art of slithering through presents like a snake while smiling in a creepy way. This is a little known martial art with surprisingly few practitioners.

The Green shinobi proceeds to pinch ALL the presents and the awesome music kicks in again. Oh, did I say the “brain is full of spiders” line was The Best Ever? Let me modify that. This one is my newest favorite: “You have termites in your smile.” God, the poetry of that. The economy of language. I’m going to say that to the next corporate lobbyist I see slouching toward Washington D.C. to be born (which isn’t many, to be honest, since I reside on the other side of the country).

The Grinch continues his Grand Theft Auto version of Christmas, reenacting a scene from the classic vampire flick Nosferatu:

…and simulates sexual intercourse between a tree and a fireplace:

That’s not a Grinch kink thing, by the way. He’s actually showing the Whos what they can do with their singing and their rampantly hedonistic holiday.

…Until he’s caught out by Evil Baby Who, a creature that happens to coo like a dove. Do not be fooled. She is evil incarnate. She may have entered carrying a bomb—I can’t be sure.

She demands accounting—why’s he jacking their tree? Who is he working for? Where did he put the candy canes? Who killed Jimmy Hoffa? Why is he simulating sexual congress between the fireplace and a Christmas tree? Why?

The Grinch is pimptastic and tells lies like a politician on speed during an election year. Then the Grinch and Evil Baby Who engage in masterful Kung Fu Fighting until the Grinch manages, at great personal sacrifice, to lock Evil Baby Who back in her room. He steals the log so the Whos will freeze, steals the food so that even their mice will starve (although he does leave the hooks and wire on the wall, because that shit’s hard to get off). This is Total War, people, and it’s not pretty. He even steals the ice cubes. The guy is hardcore.

We are treated to a nail-biting escape back up the mountain as Max the super-enhanced canine-reindeer-unicorn hybrid pulls a sled with roughly seventy metric tons of swag, all while being enthusiastically whipped by the Grinch. Which is kind of over the top, if you think about it for too long…but I digress.

Unfortunately, it’s at this point the movie goes completely off the rails. Instead of gloating over his total victory and either selling all that loot on EBay or fencing it or even shoving it over the edge of the cliff, the Grinch is driven insane by more appalling Who singing and suffers a heart attack and dies. He’s replaced by a pod person clone mind-controlled surrogate who brings back all the stolen gear. The Whos promptly eat him for dinner instead of the Roast Beast to punish him for thwarting their Evil Baby Who and the hive mind. There is no Happily Ever After in Whoville and the horror, much like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is free to continue unabated.

You should’ve used the 155mm artillery, Grinch.

Just saying.

A side note: Max found work as a unicorn-reindeer-canine shifter in a spicy paranormal book series, so he at least earned a HEA.

Enough with the Cheap Scares Already

Last night I watched the director’s cut of the movie 1408


Now, I loved the Stephen King short story which I first heard read by the author on the Blood and Smoke audio cd. Creepy. I particularly enjoyed the tale’s almost self-aware quality, the nod to haunted stories and a shift into another realm with a very different kind of haunted room. The unease compounds as the character becomes gradually disconnected from reality when strange and disturbing things occur in the room–evidenced by his increasingly cryptic messages on his mini recorder. What can I say? It worked for me, and worked well.

Now the movie is blood of a different color. Don’t get me wrong. It had moments I admire. The whole radio playing the song “We’ve Only Just Begun” was an exceedingly nice touch. The rest…didn’t flip my switches. Too much stuff I’d seen before, and it felt largely uninspired. Now the King story had an intense focus on the feverish quality of the light, a theme carried on throughout, but this element was largely missing from the movie. Also, the movie didn’t seem to handle the cryptic/creepy nature of the mini recorder anywhere near as effectively…or the build up about the history of the room. C’mon, half the fun of haunted stories is the history.

But let me (finally) get to the main thing that irked me about the movie: those cheap-ass, ham-fisted,   over-used slam cuts aka fast cuts to something “unexpected.” In 1408 it’s, shockingly, some slash-hacker wanna-be killer with a knife who never manages to kill anything and doesn’t really play a role in the plot. You know the routine. Movie gets very quiet. Tight focus on the character on-screen. CUT TO CLOSE UP OF KILLER AND/OR CAT AND/OR DEAD BODY AND BLAST SOUND TO STARTLE AUDIENCE!!!

And yes, that last sentence had to be written in all caps because it is JUST THAT SHOCKING! I won’t even go into the raw power three exclamation marks bring to the table.

Enough with those cheap startle scares. They make me flinch sometimes, yeah, but that’s usually because the sound is so damn loud. I flinch when grenades go off, too. That doesn’t make grenades scary–well, actually, it does. But I’m wandering off topic…

 I want more intelligent horror–something that scares me. Or perhaps I just crave more effective horror.

Next up in the Netflix queue are Diary of the Dead and Quarantine. Because, to be honest, all zombies must die.